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NORTHLAND NATURE JOURNAL: Unsettling weather this autumn

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Dallas Hudson

The summer birds and flowers have been all blown away with the leaves in this fall’s wild weather that seems to change so abruptly.

Fall is normally a time of fluctuating weather, but this year seems to be even more so. The lakes are struggling to freeze over and greatly vary. Bad ice seems to be the “new normal” anymore, so be extra careful as you venture out.

The snow is here and gone, depending on the day or even time of day.

Yet the cycles of nature continues. The white-tailed deer are in rut, so the fawns will be born at the right time in late spring when the new grass is tall enough to hide them and temps once again warm and food is plentiful. As I walk through these meadows now, all I see is dreary brown and everything looks dead. Yet, if you look close, it’s full of new life in the form of seed heads that will be next year’s flowers.

Those meadows soon will be snow covered and filled with subnivean tunnels of mice and voles, as they feed on them under a warm blanket of snow. Yes, “warm blanket” for the snow is an insulator and will be near freezing at ground level no matter how cold it gets above this protective layer.

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Most bears are in hibernation now, so the bird feeders are back out. It’s just the usual winter birds – mostly chickadees, who are always cheery no matter the weather; a few nuthatches, woodpeckers and blue jays, who add some color. No finches yet for us, and we’re still waiting to see the first shrike, redpoles, crossbills and grosbeaks.

An outdoorsman all his life, Dallas Hudson grew up in Akeley. He tracks the birds, animals, insects, plants of northern Minnesota in his daily journals. Hudson shares his nature observations and photos with KAXE’s Season Watch, the Minnesota Phenology Network and the Park Rapids Enterprise. He works at an official field camp of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) on Shingobee Lake, near Akeley.

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